William Russell Wiita died in the line of duty on September 8, 2014. He suffered a heart attack a few hours after a rescue call.
Will joined Coldsprings-Excelsior Fire and Rescue in 2001 and was a pillar in the department and community for the last thirteen years. He served in that time as a firefighter, EMT, lieutenant, medical officer and, most recently, assistant chief. As a co-founder of the Explorers program, he helped kids in the community get involved in the fire service.
One of the most diversely talented members of Station Six, Will could be relied on for any job, and he excelled at everything he did. He had a wealth of knowledge which he put to use on scene as a fire officer and EMT, and behind the scenes as “Mr. Fix-It” around the station. The most daunting situations were, in Will’s words, “No Biggie,” yet the most mundane tasks received his full care and attention. From parades and fundraising breakfasts to medical scenes, house fires and auto accidents, Will was there, day or night, selflessly serving the department and the community in whatever way he was needed. His superiors and those he supervised came to depend on his guidance, experience, outside-the-box thinking, and can-do outlook.
On scene and off, Will was always looking out for the people around him. Will is not known for any single defining event or act; rather, he is best remembered in the community for his calm presence and steadfast reliability in every situation. He will be sorely missed by all of us, but he will continue to serve as an inspiration to us as we serve our community.
This sentiment is shared wholeheartedly by his family. Will was born and raised in northern Minnesota and grew up loving hunting, fishing, and practical jokes. At age 20, he moved to Dearborn, Michigan, to begin work at Double Eagle Steel and then later decided to leave his job and move to Kalkaska, allowing him to spend more time doing what he loved.
Throughout his life in Michigan, he made regular trips back to Minnesota for family occasions, the annual Boundary Waters fishing trip, and hunting season. His family loved his visits and would share the news, “Willie’s coming home!” and would line up “Willie jobs” for him to do. He also enjoyed traveling around the country and overseas to visit family and friends, seeing new sights, and trying new foods. Will lived life to the full.
Both his ‘families’ in Minnesota and Michigan miss him dearly and have taken comfort in sharing fond memories and their favorite stories about him.